Study: High level of auto recalls likely to continue

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Southfield — Automotive recalls should continue at a high rate in 2015, a year after manufacturers called back a record 63.9 million cars and trucks, a new study says.

The second annual automotive industry warranty and recall study — released Tuesday by advisory firm Stout, Risius and Ross — said we’re unlikely to see major recalls like last year’s Takata air bags or General Motors Co. ignition switch issues. But aggressive oversight by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should lead to a high number of callbacks.

“We will continue to see an elevated level of recall volume,” said Neil Steinkamp, managing director of SRR. “The regulators have said we will ... and they’re addressing safety issues very proactively.”

The study also says automakers will do a better job at completing recalls on affected vehicles and will be more transparent in identifying suppliers involved.

Last year, every automaker recalled more than double the number of cars and trucks they sold, the study found. GM recalled 9.1 times more vehicles than it sold, while Honda recalled 5.9 times more and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV recalled 4.3 times more cars and trucks than it sold.

GM’s ignition switch represented 20 percent of all recalls, while Takata’s air bag inflators represented 30 percent of all 2014 recalls. NHTSA collected $126 million in civil penalities, exceeding the total amount collected in the agency’s entire history.

Earlier this week, Mercedes-Benz issued a recall for more than 147,000 sedans and station wagons to fix a problem with an engine compartment seal that could spark a fire. On Tuesday, GM recalled about 67,000 Cadillac ATS compact sports sedans to fix a problem with the power sunroof controls.

The study found that not only are recalls increasing, but completion of the issues related to recalls is getting better as well. Last year, automakers were able to fix about 80 percent of the recalled vehicles, and a majority of those vehicles were repaired in the first six months of the recall. Still, an estimated 46 million vehicles with unfixed recalls remain on the road.

“Completion rates are a big deal,” Steinkamp said. “There’s an upward pressure from the regulator to make sure that’s happening.”

The study found, unsurprisingly, that the older the vehicle is, the lower the completion rate.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with, said most customers aren’t too interested about bringing their vehicles in to be fixed. “We definitely saw consumer fatigue regarding recalls,” she said.

Still, Krebs said customers don’t think recalls hurt their perception of vehicle quality overall, and they’re not inclined to change brands. “People generally think today’s cars are as good or better than five years ago,” she said.

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